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Tyne and Wear HER(4483): South Shields, Ballast Hills - Details

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S Tyneside

South Shields, Ballast Hills

South Shields


Ballast Hill

Post Medieval


Documentary Evidence

During the post medieval period the increase in shipping and trade led to the accumulation of a large amount of ballast which formed hills to the east of the town. They are shown on Fryer and Richardson's maps. Many ships coming to the Tyne to load coal entered the river 'light' or 'in ballast'. This means that no cargo was being carried. In the absence of cargo, the ballast gives the vessel stability. Ships returning from London coal voyages often carried shingle or chalk as ballast. Sand and other materials were also used. Over the centuries, great hills of ballast grew along both banks of the Tyne. There were substantial ballast hills near Bill Point Walker, Willington Quay, Hebburn, Jarrow and North and South Shields. Ships were charged fees to unload their ballast. By the early 1820s this was about 20p per ton. To avoid the fee some masters resorted to the dangerous act of discharging ballast before entering harbour. One estimate suggests that some 20% of all imported ballast ended up in the river, risking the Tyne silting up.




<< HER 4483 >> J. Fryer, 1772, A Plan of the Low Part of the River Tyne Richardson, 1768; Dick Keys and Ken Smith, 2005, Tall Ships on the Tyne, p 6

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